IVSA Montreal Conference Survey Report

Here is a short summary of the survey we circulated among the 2017 conference participants along with some reflections. Thanks to all those who found the time to respond to the survey. We are taking this very useful feedback into account in the planning of our next conference – co-hosted by the University of Paris-Saclay and the University of Evry, in France, June 25-28, 2018.

The first aspect we would like to highlight is that for 40 of the 71 survey respondents Montreal was the first IVSA conference they attended. While this means that we triggered the curiosity of many newcomers, on the other hand this information indicates that less than half of survey participants were repeat attenders/returners. Past conferences have followed a similar pattern (that there are more new delegates than repeat attenders). How to keep attracting past presenters is a key issue we should consider in our future conversations.

Most respondents learned about the conference through our website or by word of mouth. Far fewer were aware via social media or other channels. With our new website, we hope to attract more people next year. We aim to build our social media presence to promote any website related updates. We also aim to improve our IVSA communication. During our last board meeting we decided to send regular “What’s up with the IVSA?” email bulletins to IVSA members. Future bulletins will include details about the next conference so that all IVSA members are informed about the conference, and past contributors are encouraged to participate again.

We are delighted that the majority of respondents were “very satisfied” with the Montreal conference, including its venue, registration process, accommodations, food/refreshments, social events, and communication. Regarding networking opportunities, and the quality of the social events people were divided between “satisfied” and “very satisfied”. 40 respondents were satisfied with the quality of the presentations, while 28 were very satisfied.

The element of the conference that respondents seemed least satisfied with was the business meeting. 15 people were very satisfied with this meeting, most respondents were “satisfied” and 10 were dissatisfied. This should be a reminder of the importance of distributing the business agenda in advance to all participants, so that everyone is well informed and can participate more effectively at the business meeting.

Another less than satisfactory feature was the high number of parallel sessions. Regarding the high number of parallel sessions, respondents suggested that we consider including more presentations in each panel, fewer parallel sessions, and more time between sessions. This last point is important since the time from one session to the next is used by many to meet other people interested in the same topic. In other words, networking happens not only during the social events, but also during the conference itself. Indeed, the majority of survey respondents reported that the most valuable aspect of the conference was the networking opportunities available to delegates.

We will conclude this summary on a positive note – to the question, “how likely are you to recommend this conference to a colleague?” over 45 people responded “very likely” and 40 stated that they would like to attend future IVSA conferences.

The call for submissions for the 36th IVSA conference is now live, and closes on January 22nd, 2018.

We look forward to seeing you all again in June 2018, in Evry, France!


  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris


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